Republican Convention 2008

Palin: Long on 'tude, Short on Specifics

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As an instance of political theater, I think just about anybody would agree that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's speech was pretty impressive. As Nina Easton of Fortune put it (somewhat regretfully) on Fox News Channel, "It was a home run in the first inning." It was a well-delivered, red-meat speech, chock full o' attacks on Barack Obama and Democrats in general.

For me, the lacuna at the heart of it all, a gigantic prolapsed valve big enough to punch your fist through, was the inability of the GOP to spell out exactly what John McCain's great legislative accomplishments were/are. Palin kept intoning that McCain was a great American, apart form the torture he endured during the Vietnam War. But she wouldn't quite spell out what his massive successes were. McCain-Feingold? Eh, not exactly. Earmark reform? Mebbe (except for the fact that Alaska pulls in much more dough than it sends to D.C.). He was against the Medicare prescription drug benefit—a totally awful and unnecessary expansion of the welfare state. But she didn't call that out (which makes sense, given that a Republican president pushed the bejeezus out of it all and it seemed like the average age in the RNC hall was about 70 years old).

I've got to admit that, as someone who doesn't care for Dem-Rep politics, I like Palin as a character. She's on a totally different script than any of us are used to; she's white trash in the same way Angelina Jolie is (and no wonder she scares the hell out of so many people). I want to think there's some latent libertarianism in her shtick, though I'm troubled by her bullshit backtracking on earmarks, the Bridge To Nowhere, you name it.

But in the end, the VP doesn't matter. Sen. Joe Biden is awful on virtually every level—he's a drug warrior to the max and a situational hawk and peacenik. It's the people at the top of the ticket who cause the most problems. And while I worry about Obama's willingness to raise taxes, increase regulations, and wage indiscriminate wars (that a Democratic Congress will support, as they did under Bill Clinton), I worry just as much about someone like John McCain, who for all the reasons Matt Welch details in his indispensable book details, who would be just as rotten.